Most of us knew Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels’ job was on the line, but few thought he’d be fired before the end of the season. No one expected Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to pay three head coaches in 2011, so McDaniels, no matter how poorly he performed, seemed safe. So much for that idea. After leading Denver to an 11-17 regular season record over two years, and being caught up in a videotaping scandal, McDaniels was fired yesterday, with two years and more than $7 million left on his contract. “I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed,” Bowlen said in a statement released by the team. “The decision to make a change was extremely difficult but one that needed to be made for this organization and our fans.”

Running backs coach Eric Studesville will take over for the last four games, but The Denver Post reports that Minnesota Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier and Air Force Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun are among the early candidates to replace McDaniels.

Opinions started rolling in from all corners of the country after the team announced the firing on its Twitter feed. McDaniels forced the Broncos’ hand with a poor record, questionable personnel moves, and the videotaping scandal, writes ESPN: “The Broncos went from one of the more attractive organizations in the NFL to one in total disarray. McDaniels will go down as one of the most reviled figures in Denver sports history.” McDaniels had to go, acknowledges Sports Illustrated, but people shouldn’t forget that Bowlen made the original mistake of firing Mike Shanahan and handing the reins to a 32-year-old coach, who was clearly in over his head, a view shared by The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla.

The Post’s Woody Paige writes that McDaniels’ “unrelenting narcissistic public attitude,” decision not to play Tim Tebow, and the shame he brought on the team put him in a “precarious, indefensible position from which he couldn’t escape.” Speaking of Tebow, USA Today wonders what will come of the loved-or-loathed young player now that McDaniels is out.